Mormon Fray

The Archive of Incidental Mormon References in Pop Culture...

Family Ties (1984)

IMDB | Wikipedia

Season 3, Episode 4
"Love Thy Neighbour"

It seemed appropriate to start with the first reference to Mormons I remember hearing, outside of my home life. My first blog post on this site (which was chopped up and sprinkled in the FAQ) touched on this clip briefly. I was searching the Internet trying to track it down when the idea occurred to me (and the need became apparent to me) to create this site. (The Internet is great for tracking down the sources of those indelible childhood memories and seeing how they look in the light of adulthood.)

Context: Jennifer's friend Scott is back after a five year absence. She is now eleven, and he is seventeen. (Apparently, when she was six and he was twelve, they used to hang out and play sports together...) Anyway, he's in town for a few days for a college interview, and apparently Jennifer's parents have no qualms about a seventeen year-old coming to spend time alone with their eleven year-old daughter. Creaky premise aside, Scott is all set to reminisce with Jennifer about old times (and maybe kick the soccer ball around) until he lays eyes on Mallory, who is also seventeen. (Why was he ever Jennifer's friend again?) Needless to say, he's smitten, and begins to ignore Jennifer in favour of her older, hotter, much more age-appropriate sister. A frustrated Jennifer approaches her brother Alex, who helpfully explains that boys Scott's age have hormones coursing through their veins. Later, Jennifer crashes the date that Scott has taken Mallory on, affecting "grown-up" mannerisms and misremembers Alex's words of wisdom...

Family Ties

Exegesis: This is a pretty inoffensive reference to Mormons. Jennifer misremembering Alex's line and repeating it to her sister incorrectly isn't gold-standard comedy (like, say, the Cheers reference is), but it's not bad, and as I said, pretty innocuous.

The humour in this Family Ties example is not at the expense of Mormons, which is rare when Mormonism is invoked for comedic effect. Typically, Mormons are referenced in TV or film comedies in order to get a cheap laugh out of our centuries-old polygamous history. And occasionally, as you may see on this site, polygamy is also dredged up for dramatic (or more often, melodramatic) effect.

Jennifer's declaration is absurd, and the humour derives from that unexpected homophonic juxtaposition of "Mormons" for "hormones". This gag is repeated elsewhere with different homophonic substitutions of varying plausibility, like "human" in Frasier, or "more men" in the aforementioned Cheers example. Most often, a character misspeaks by saying "Moron" instead of "Mormon" (Beavis & Butt-head) or vice versa (Married... With Children), which isn't the most flattering association, but considering there is actually someone named "Moron" in the Book of Mormon, I suppose we can't complain.

blog comments powered by Disqus